DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Separatist rebels said they retook a village near the Russian border from government forces Wednesday as both sides pressed to claim territory in eastern Ukraine.
Sergei Kavtaradze, a spokesman for separatists in Donetsk, said one rebel militiaman was killed and 15 others injured in fighting in the village of Marinivka. The insurgency’s military leader, Igor Girkin, told the Russian television station LifeNews that his men destroyed two Ukrainian armored vehicles and captured another.
Since the start of the month, Ukrainian forces have halved the territory held by the insurgency, which is seeking to wrest two eastern regions from Kiev. Government efforts have focused efforts on sealing the border with Russia, where insurgents are believed to draw much of their hardware and manpower. The rebels have captured several Ukrainian border points.
The Interfax news agency cited a Russian border service official as saying that two heavily wounded Ukrainian border guards appealed to their Russian colleagues for medical assistance at the crossing near Marinivka.
In the rebel-held city of Donetsk, a stronghold for insurgent forces, militiamen loaded family members Wednesday onto buses heading to Russia. Daria Morozova, whose organization coordinates the flow of refugees from the eastern city, said 10 buses carrying 500 people were set to leave for Russia’s Rostov region.
Ukraine, meanwhile, announced that the Air Force will resume missions over the conflict zone for the first time since a military transport plane was shot down Monday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed Ukraine’s unfolding security crisis in separate phone calls Tuesday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and with President Barack Obama, according to her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
Poroshenko told her there are indications that heavy weapons are getting to separatists across the Russian border and that attacks upon Ukrainian forces from Russian territory are increasing, Seibert said.
Seibert said Obama and Merkel expressed disappointment that Ukraine has still not talked with rebel representatives. The leaders also agreed that Russia had failed to implement effective border surveillance as hoped.
Merkel said the “possible consequences of these so-far disappointed expectations will be an issue” at Wednesday’s European Union summit in Brussels, Seibert said.
Geir Moulson in Berlin and Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.